Clinton Pledges Tech Centers, Data Privacy

TOKYO (01/28/2000) - In his final State of the Union address, U.S. President Bill Clinton yesterday outlined an ambitious set of goals for the coming year including several designed to push technology and the Internet deeper into everyday life while at the same time safeguarding personal information held on computer systems.

Outlining a series of measures designed to ensure the less advantaged, whether by social group or geography, have as many opportunities to succeed as their more well-off peers, Clinton noted that access to a computer and the ability to use it is vital to opening the door of opportunity.

Pledging to close the "digital divide" between information technology haves and have-nots, he outlined plans to create 1,000 technology centers across the United States to serve adults.

"This spring, I'll invite high-tech leaders to join me on another New Markets tour to close the digital divide and open opportunity for our people," he said.

Touching on a new series of tax incentives, he called on more companies in the information technology industry to join him in achieving this goal.

The drive was started several years ago with a Vice President Al Gore's E-rate plan to place computers with Internet access into schools and classrooms. Since then, penetration into classrooms has risen from a few percent in 1994 to more than 50 percent this year, the president said.

"But we cannot finish the job when a third of all schools are in serious disrepair, many of them with walls and wires that are too old for the Internet.

Tonight, I propose to help 5,000 schools a year make immediate, urgent repairs.

And again, to help build or modernize 6,000 more, to get students out of trailers and into high-tech classrooms," he said in the televised address, monitored in Tokyo.

Still in the education sector, he announced plans that will see all new teachers are "trained to teach 21st century skills."

"This is a national crusade. We've got to do this, and we've got to do this quickly," he said.

The President also addressed measures needed to tackle the dark side associated with the increasing penetration of computers and networks into the daily lives of millions.

"First and foremost, we have to safeguard our citizens' privacy," he said.

"Last year, we proposed rules to protect every citizen's medical records. This year, we will finalize those rules," he said.

Continuing, he said, "We have also taken the first steps to protect the privacy of bank and credit card records and other financial statements. Soon I will send legislation to the Congress to finish that job."

On the subject of violence in Internet and video games, he congratulated the entertainment industry on establishing a voluntary ratings system but called for a coming together of the systems used for Internet and video games and those of television.

"Every parent I know worries about the impact of violence in the media on their children," Clinton said. "But frankly, the ratings are too numerous, diverse and confusing to be really useful to parents. So tonight, I now ask the industry to accept the First Lady's challenge to develop a single, voluntary rating system for all children's entertainment, one that is easier for parents to understand and enforce."

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